WHAT I LEARNED AT A DODGE CITY MEATPACKING PLANT

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/07/meatpacking-plant-dodge-city/619011/

About beef, about myself, about AmericaBy Michael HoltzJULY/AUGUST 2021 ISSUESHARE

This article was published online on June 14, 2021.https://audm.herokuapp.com/player-embed/?pub=atlantic&articleID=pulling-count-holtz

On the morning of may 25, 2019, a food-safety inspector at a Cargill meatpacking plant in Dodge City, Kansas, came across a disturbing sight. In an area of the plant called the stack, a Hereford steer had, after being shot in the forehead with a bolt gun, regained consciousness. Or maybe he had never lost it. Either way, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The steer was hanging upside down by a steel chain shackled to one of his rear legs. He was showing what is known in the euphemistic language of the American beef industry as “signs of sensibility.” His breathing was “rhythmic.” His eyes were open and moving. And he was trying to right himself, which the animals commonly do by arching their back. The only sign he wasn’t exhibiting was “vocalization.”

MAKE YOUR INBOX MORE INTERESTING

Each weekday evening, get an overview of the day’s biggest news, along with fascinating ideas, images, and people.Email Address (required)Sign Up

THANKS FOR SIGNING UP!

The inspector, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told employees in the stack to stop the moving overhead chain to which the cattle were attached and “reknock” the steer. But when one of them pulled the trigger on a handheld bolt gun, it misfired. Someone brought over another gun to finish the job. “The animal was then stunned adequately,” the inspector wrote in a memorandum describing the incident, noting that “the timeframe from observing the apparent egregious action to the final euthanizing stun was approximately 2 to 3 minutes.”

Three days after the incident occurred, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, citing the plant’s history of compliance, put the plant on notice for its “failure to prevent inhumane handling and slaughter of livestock.” FSIS ordered the plant to create an action plan to ensure that such an incident didn’t happen again. On June 4, the agency approved a plan submitted by the plant’s manager and said in a letter to him that it would defer a decision about punishment. The chain could keep moving, and with it the slaughtering of up to 5,800 cows a day.

The first time I stepped foot in the stack was late last October, after I had been working at the plant for more than four months. To find it, I arrived early one day and worked my way backwards down the chain. It was surreal to see the slaughter process in reverse, to witness step-by-step what it would take to reassemble a cow: shove its organs back into its body cavities; reattach its head to its neck; pull its hide back over its flesh; draw blood back into its veins.

During my visits to the kill floor, I saw a severed hoof lying inside a metal sink in the skinning room, and puddles of bright-red blood dotting the red-brick floor. One time, a woman in a yellow synthetic-rubber apron was trimming away flesh from skinless, decapitated heads. A USDA inspector working next to her was doing something similar. I asked him what he was cutting. “Lymph nodes,” he said. I found out later that he was performing a routine check for diseases and contamination.

On my last trip to the stack, I tried to be inconspicuous. I stood against the back wall and watched as two men standing on a raised platform cut vertical incisions down the throat of each passing cow. As far as I could tell, all of the animals were unconscious, though a few of them involuntarily kicked their legs. I watched until a supervisor came over and asked what I was doing. I told him I wanted to see what this part of the plant was like. “You need to leave,” he said. “You can’t be here without a face shield.” I apologized and told him that I would get going. I couldn’t have stayed for much longer anyway; my shift was about to start.

Getting a job at the Cargill plant was surprisingly easy. The online application for “general production” was six pages long. It took less than 15 minutes to fill out. At no point was I required to submit a résumé, let alone references. The most substantial part of the application was a 14-question form that asked things like:

“Do you have experience working with knives to cut meat (this does not include working in a grocery store or deli)?”

No.

“How many years have you worked in a beef production plant (example: slaughter or fabrication, not a grocery store or deli)?”

No experience.

“How many years have you worked in a production or plant environment (example: assembly line or manufacturing work)?”

Zero.

Four hours and 20 minutes after hitting “Submit,” I received an email confirmation for a phone interview the next day, May 19, 2020. The interview lasted three minutes. When the woman conducting it asked me for the name of my last employer, I told her that it was the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the publisher of The Christian Science Monitor. I had worked at the Monitor from 2014 to 2018. For the last two of those four years, I was its Beijing correspondent. I had quit to study Chinese and freelance.

“And what did you do there?” the woman asked about my time at the Church.

“Communications,” I said.

The woman asked a couple of follow-up questions about when I quit and why. During the interview, the only question that gave me pause was the final one.

“Do you have any issues or concerns working in our environment?” she asked.

After hesitating for a moment, I replied, “No, I don’t.”

With that, the woman said that I was “eligible for a verbal, conditional job offer.” She told me about the six positions for which the plant was hiring. All were for the second shift, which at the time was running from 3:45 in the afternoon to between 12:30 and 1 o’clock in the morning. Three of the jobs were in harvesting, the side of the plant more commonly known as the kill floor, and three were in fabrication, where the meat is prepared for distribution to stores and restaurants.

RECOMMENDED READING

I quickly decided that I wanted a job in fab. Temperatures on the kill floor can approach 100 degrees in the summer, and, as the woman on the phone explained, “the smell is stronger because of the humidity.” Then there were the jobs themselves, jobs like removing hides and “dropping tongues.” After you remove the tongue, the woman said, “you do have to hang it on a hook.” Her description of fab, on the other hand, made it sound less medieval and more like an industrial-scale butcher shop. A small army of assembly-line workers saw, cut, trim, and package all of the meat from the cows. The temperature on the fab floor ranges from 32 to 36 degrees. But, the woman told me, you work so hard that “you don’t feel the cold once you’re in there.”On the evening before I left for Dodge City, my mom and I went to my sister and brother-in-law’s house for a steak dinner. “It might be the last one you ever have,” my sister said.

We went over the job openings. Chuck cap puller was immediately out because it involved walking and cutting at the same time. The next to go was brisket bone for the simple reason that having to remove something called brisket fingers from in between joints sounded unappealing. That left chuck final trim. That job, as the woman described it, consisted entirely of trimming pieces of chuck “to whatever spec it is that they’re running.” How hard could that be? I thought to myself. I told the woman that I would take it. “Perfect,” she said, and went on to tell me my starting pay ($16.20 an hour) and the conditions of my job offer.

A couple of weeks later, after a background check, a drug screening, and a physical exam, I got a call about my start date: June 8, the following Monday. The drive to Dodge City from Topeka, where I had been living with my mom since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, takes about four hours. I decided that I would leave on Sunday.

On the evening before I left, my mom and I went to my sister and brother-in-law’s house for a steak dinner. “It might be the last one you ever have,” my sister said when she called to invite us over. My brother-in-law grilled two 22-ounce rib eyes for him and me and a 24-ounce sirloin for my mom and sister to split. I helped my sister cook the side dishes: mashed potatoes and green beans sautéed in butter and bacon grease. The quintessential home-cooked meal for a middle-class family in Kansas.

The steak was as good as any I’ve had. It’s hard to describe it without sounding like an Applebee’s commercial: charred crust, juicy and tender meat. I tried to eat slowly so that I could savor every bite. But soon I was caught up in conversation, and I finished eating without thinking about it. In a state where cows outnumber people two to one, where more than 5 billion pounds of beef are produced annually, and where many families—including mine, when my three sisters and I were younger—fill their deep freezer once a year with a side of beef, it’s easy to take a steak dinner for granted.

The cargill plant is on the southeastern outskirts of Dodge City, just down the road from a slightly larger meatpacking plant owned by National Beef. The two facilities sit at opposite ends of what is surely the most noxious two-mile stretch of road in southwestern Kansas. Situated close by is a wastewater-treatment plant and a feedlot. On many days last summer, I found the stench of lactic acid, hydrogen sulfide, manure, and death to be nauseating. The oppressive heat only made it worse.

The High Plains of southwestern Kansas are home to four major meatpacking plants: the two in Dodge City, plus one in Liberal (National Beef) and another near Garden City (Tyson Foods). That Dodge City became home to two meatpacking plants is a fitting coda to the town’s early history. Founded in 1872 along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, Dodge City was originally an outpost for buffalo hunters. After the herds that once roamed the Great Plains were decimated—to say nothing of what happened to the Native Americans who’d once lived there—the city turned to the cattle trade.

Practically overnight, Dodge City became, in the words of a prominent local businessman, “the greatest cattle market in the world.” This was the era of lawmen like Wyatt Earp and gunfighters like Doc Holliday, of gambling and shoot-outs and barroom brawls. To say that Dodge City is proud of its Wild West heritage would be an understatement, and nowhere is that heritage more celebrated—some might say mythologized—than at the Boot Hill Museum. Located at 500 West Wyatt Earp Boulevard, near Gunsmoke Street and the Gunfighters Wax Museum, the Boot Hill Museum is anchored by a full-scale replica of the once-famous Front Street. Visitors can enjoy a sarsaparilla at the Long Branch Saloon or shop for handmade soap and homemade fudge at the Rath & Co. General Store. Entry to the museum is free for Ford County residents, a deal that I took advantage of many times last summer after I moved into a one-bedroom apartment near the local VFW.

Yet for all its dime-novel-worthy stories, Dodge City’s Wild West era was short-lived. In 1885, under growing pressure from local ranchers, the Kansas legislature banned Texas cattle from the state, bringing an abrupt end to the cattle drives that had fueled the town’s boom years. For the next seven decades, Dodge City remained a quiet farming community. Then, in 1961, a company called Hyplains Dressed Beef opened the first meatpacking plant in town (the same one now operated by National Beef). In 1980, a subsidiary of Cargill opened its plant down the road. The beef industry had returned to Dodge City.

Workers handling meat along an illustrated conveyor belt
Illustration by Mark Harris; images by USDA Photo / Alamy; ItalianFoodProduction / Getty

With a combined workforce of more than 12,800 people, the four meatpacking plants are among the largest employers in southwestern Kansas, and all of them rely on immigrants to help staff their production lines. “The packers followed the maxim of ‘Build it and they will come,’ ” Donald Stull, an anthropologist who has studied the meatpacking industry for more than 30 years, told me. “And that’s basically what happened.”https://3246d20dbaf1d2e398ae640359a84593.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

According to Stull, the boom started in the early 1980s with the arrival of refugees from Vietnam and migrants from Mexico and Central America. In more recent years, refugees from Myanmar, Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all come to work in the plants. Today, nearly one in three Dodge City residents is foreign-born, and three in five are Latino or Hispanic. When I arrived at the plant on my first day of work, I was greeted by four banners at the entrance, one each in English, Spanish, French, and Somali, warning employees to stay home if they were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

I spent much of my first two days at the plant with six other new hires in a windowless classroom near the kill floor. The room had beige cinder-block walls and fluorescent overhead lighting. On the wall near the door hung two posters, one in English and the other in Somali, that read bringing beef to the people. The HR rep who was with us for most of those two days of orientation made sure we didn’t forget that mission. “Cargill is a worldwide organization,” she said before starting a lengthy PowerPoint presentation. “We pretty much feed the world. That’s why when the coronavirus started, we didn’t shut down. Because you guys want to eat, right?” Everyone nodded.

By that point, in early June, COVID-19 had forced at least 30 meatpacking plants across the United States to pause operations and, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, had killed at least 74 workers. The Cargill plant reported its first case on April 13. Kansas public-health records reveal that over the course of 2020, more than 600 of the plant’s 2,530 employees contracted COVID-19. At least four died.

In March, the plant started to implement a series of social-distancing measures, including some that had been recommended by the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It staggered breaks and installed plexiglass barriers on tables in the cafeteria and thick plastic curtains between workstations on the production line. During the third week of August, metal dividers suddenly appeared in the men’s bathrooms, providing workers with a bit of space (and privacy) at the stainless-steel urinal troughs.

The plant also hired a company called Examinetics to screen employees before each shift. In a white tent at the entrance to the plant, a team of medical personnel—all of whom wore N95 masks, white coveralls, and gloves—checked temperatures and handed out disposable face masks. Thermal cameras were set up inside the plant for additional temperature checks. Face coverings were mandatory. I always wore the disposable masks, but many other employees preferred to wear a blue neck gaiter with a United Food and Commercial Workers International Union logo or a black bandana with the Cargill logo and, for some reason, #extraordinary printed on it.

Catching the coronavirus wasn’t the only health risk at the plant. Meatpacking is notoriously dangerous. According to Human Rights Watch, government statistics show that from 2015 to 2018, a meat or poultry worker lost a body part or was sent to the hospital for in-patient treatment about every other day. On the first day of orientation, one of the other new hires, a Black man from Alabama, described a close call he’d had when he worked in packaging at National Beef’s plant up the road. He rolled up his right sleeve to reveal a four-inch scar on the outside of his elbow. “I almost turned into chocolate milk,” he said.

The HR rep told a similar story about a man whose sleeve got caught in a conveyor belt. “He lost his arm up to here,” she said, pointing halfway up her left biceps. She let this sink in for a few moments, before moving on to the next PowerPoint slide: “That’s a good transition into workplace violence.” She began explaining Cargill’s zero-tolerance policy on guns.

After a 15-minute break, we returned to the classroom for a presentation by a union rep.https://3246d20dbaf1d2e398ae640359a84593.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“Why are we all here?” he asked.

“To make money,” someone responded.

“To make money!” the union rep repeated.

For the next hour and 15 minutes, money—and how the union helped us make more of it—was our focus. The union rep told us that UFCW’s local chapter had recently negotiated a permanent $2 raise for all hourly employees. He explained that all hourly employees would also earn an additional $6 an hour in “purpose pay,” because of the pandemic, through the end of August. This brought the starting wage up to $24.20. The next day at lunch, the man from Alabama told me how eager he was to work overtime. “Right now I’m trying to work on my credit,” he said. “We’ll be working so much, we won’t even have time to spend all that money.”

On my third day of work at the Cargill plant, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 2 million. But the plant was beginning to bounce back from the outbreak that it had experienced earlier in the spring. (In early May, the plant’s production output had fallen by about 50 percent, according to a text message sent by Cargill’s director of state-government affairs to Kansas’s secretary of agriculture, which I later obtained through a public-records request.) The superintendent in charge of second shift, a giant man with a bushy white beard and a missing right thumb, sounded pleased. “It’s balls to the wall,” I overheard him say to contractors fixing a broken air conditioner. “Last week we were hitting 4,000 a day. This week we’ll probably be around 4,500.”

In fab, processing all of those cows takes place in a cavernous room filled with steel chains, hard-plastic conveyor belts, industrial-size vacuum sealers, and stacks of cardboard shipping boxes. But first is the cooler, where sides of beef are left to hang for an average of 36 hours after they leave the kill floor. When they are brought out for butchering, the sides are broken down into forequarters and hindquarters and then into smaller, marketable cuts of meat. These are what get vacuum-sealed and loaded into boxes for distribution. In non-pandemic times, an average of 40,000 boxes, each weighing between 10 and 90 pounds, are shipped out from the plant every day. McDonald’s and Taco Bell, Walmart and Kroger—they all buy beef from Cargill. The company has six beef-processing plants across the U.S.; the one in Dodge City is the largest.He showed me how to put on a chain-mail tunic that looked made for a knight, layers of gloves, and a white-cotton frock. He led me to a spot near the middle of a 60-foot-long conveyor belt.

The most important tenet of the meatpacking industry is “The chain never stops.” Companies do everything they can to ensure that their production lines keep moving as fast as possible. Yet delays do occur. Mechanical problems are the most common reason; less common are shutdowns initiated by USDA inspectors because of suspected contamination or “inhumane handling” incidents like the one that occurred two years ago at the Cargill plant. Individual workers help keep the line moving by “pulling count”—industry parlance for doing your share of the work. The surest way to lose the respect of your co-workers is to continually fall behind on count, because doing so invariably means more work for them. The most heated confrontations I witnessed on the line happened when someone was perceived to be slacking off. These fights never escalated into anything more than yelling or the occasional elbow jab. If things got out of hand, a foreman would be called over to mediate.

New hires have a probation period of 45 days in which to prove that they can pull count—to “qualify,” as it’s known at the Cargill plant. Each one is supervised by a trainer for the duration of that time. My trainer was 30, just a few months younger than me, and had smiling eyes and broad shoulders. He was a member of a persecuted ethnic minority from Myanmar, the Karen. His Karen name was Par Taw, but after becoming an American citizen in 2019, he changed his name to Billion. “Maybe I’ll be a billionaire one day,” he told me when I asked him how he had chosen his new name. He laughed, as if embarrassed by sharing this part of his American dream.

Billion was born in 1990 in a small village in eastern Myanmar. Karen rebels were in the middle of a long insurgency against the country’s central government. The conflict raged on into the new millennium—it is one of the longest-running civil wars in the world—and forced tens of thousands of Karen to flee over the border into Thailand. Billion was one of them. When he was 12 years old, he began living in a refugee camp there. He moved to the U.S. when he was 18 years old, first to Houston and then to Garden City, where he went to work at the nearby Tyson plant. In 2011, he landed a job at Cargill, where he has worked ever since. Like many Karen people who arrived before him in Garden City, Billion attends Grace Bible Church. It was there that he met Toe Kwee, whose English name is Dahlia. The two started dating in 2009. In 2016, they had their first son, Shine. They bought a house and got married two years later.

Billion was a patient teacher. He showed me how to put on a chain-mail tunic that looked made for a knight, layers of gloves, and a white-cotton frock. Later, he gave me an orange-handled steel hook and a plastic scabbard filled with three identical knives, each with a black handle and a slightly curved six-inch blade, and led me to an empty spot near the middle of a 60-foot-long conveyor belt. Billion slid a knife from the scabbard and demonstrated how to sharpen it using a counterweight sharpener. Then he got to work, trimming away cartilage and bone fragments and ripping off long, thin ligaments from boulder-size pieces of chuck moving past us on the belt.

Billion worked methodically as I stood behind him and watched. He told me that the key was to cut off as little meat as possible. (As a supervisor succinctly put it: “More meat, more money.”) Billion made the job look effortless. In one swift motion, he flipped over 30-pound slabs of chuck with the flick of his hook and pulled out ligaments from folds in the meat. “Take it slow,” he told me after we switched spots.

More: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/07/meatpacking-plant-dodge-city/619011/

Does Emu Oil “support your passion for wellness to change the world”?

https://upc-online.org/ostriches/210402_does_emu_oil_support_your_passion_for_wellness_to_change_the_world.html?fbclid=IwAR2NtUkugsoeIU55xZ6bQMb9t06Y6r501HeArYt7WPNDPbQ7w_KGJB6u9L0

United Poultry Concerns

2 April 2021

Does Emu Oil “support your passion for wellness to change the world”?

Jan Whalen and Bluie the Emu
Jan Whalen and Bluie the Emu in Everett, Washington

“As amazing as it may sound, many people wonder whether an emu must be killed to get emu oil.” — UPC Supporter

Emu oil is obtained by slaughtering an emu. There is no other way to get this oil which is touted by emu exploiters as a virtual cure-all for whatever ails you (except as a balm for the sin-sick soul which wearing this oil can only make sicker). Put a glow on your face by smearing slaughtered emu oil on your nose, lips, and cheeks. Soothe and smooth your body with it. Just make sure before purchasing those dainty bottles and tubes of this wondrous “wellness” ointment that it is “sustainably, ethically sourced.”

What does this mean? It means commercial assurance that the emus are/were “free-range” and “humanely” killed. Oh, and “treated with respect and affection.” Most importantly, it means assurance that the emu was not slaughtered only for his or her oil, processed from the thick layer of fat beneath the bird’s skin, a reserve for hard times in the emu’s native Australia where this fleet-footed, flightless, and gentle nomad evolved 90 million years ago.

“Sustainably, ethically sourced,” means turning 95 percent of the dead bird into marketable products: “The emu’s skin can be used to make leather for clothing and accessories; the meat, which is lean but high in omega-3 fatty acids, is a popular protein; there are potential uses for emu feathers; and the bird’s giant black eggs are carved and painted to create unique pieces of art.”

On March 29, 2021, UPC posted the following letter to a wellness/mindfulness business at www.mindbodygreen.com that in 2019 featured an article boasting the health and beauty benefits of emu oil. We encourage you to contact support@mindbodygreen.com and politely urge refraining from promoting slaughtered animal parts as health and beauty aids. When you encounter promotions of emu oil or other slaughter products, please educate and advocate for the birds. If we want our own bodies to be respected, let’s practice respect (not “respect”) for theirs as well. Thank you.


UPC logo

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
Phone: 757-678-7875 • FAX: 757-678-5070
www.upc-online.org • info@upc-online.org

March 29, 2021

To Kayleigh Roberts and Mind Body Green

Via: support@mindbodygreen.com

I am writing to ask you to please not promote emu oil as a “health and beauty” benefit as per your article in Mind Body Green.

It is disturbing to click on this link and see a woman smearing a slaughterhouse product on her face. The suggestion, however well-meant, that emus may be brought into the world to be killed for their oil reserves, feathers and other body parts is incompatible with a spirit of true mindfulness and care for our fellow creatures, regardless of species. A truly mindful (informed) sensibility cannot possibly find comfort in making an animal die for “benefits” that are already available from plants. How can we value the life and feelings of an emu or any creature so little as to destroy them, short of self-defense?

Emus are gentle, family-oriented birds who evolved in Nature millions of years ago to roam over vast spaces of land. They are not meant for confined areas and being manhandled; and no matter what their exploiters say, slaughtering emus is a HORRIBLE, brutal process.

Mindfulness must surely respect the dignity of our fellow creatures, not their humiliation and degradation into “products.” We humans have enough commercial products already, way more than enough to benefit our personal well-being.

Please consider these concerns. I would be happy to hear from you if you care to respond.

Sincerely,

signature

Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns

Congress Is Investigating the Meatpacking Industry’s Failure to Protect Workers

The JBS meatpacking facility in Greeley, CO, as seen on May 31, 2020.
The JBS meatpacking facility in Greeley, CO, as seen on May 31, 2020.

BYBernice Yeung & Michael GrabellProPublicaPUBLISHEDFebruary 7, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

Akey congressional panel launched an investigation this week into the wave of COVID-19 infections that killed hundreds of workers at meatpacking plants nationwide last year and highlighted longstanding hazards in the industry.

Since the start of the pandemic, the meat industry has struggled to contain the virus in its facilities, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas have endured some of the biggest workplace outbreaks in the country.

The meat companies’ employees, many of them immigrants and refugees, slice pig bellies or cut up chicken carcasses in close quarters. Many of them don’t speak English and aren’t granted paid sick leave. To date, more than 50,000 meatpacking workers have been infected and at least 250 have died, according to a ProPublica tally.

Uncompromised, uncompromising news

Get reliable, independent news and commentary delivered to your inbox every day.

  • Email

The congressional investigation, opened by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, will examine the role of JBS, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, three of the nation’s largest meat companies, which, the subcommittee said, had “refused to take basic precautions to protect their workers” and had “shown a callous disregard for workers’ health.”

The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House.

In response to the subcommittee’s announcement, officials for JBS and Tyson said that the companies had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to implement coronavirus protections and to temporarily increase pay and benefits, and they looked forward to discussing their pandemic safety efforts with the panel. Smithfield said in a statement that it had also taken “extraordinary measures” to protect employees from the virus, spending more than $700 million on workplace modifications, testing and equipment.

The House subcommittee noted that reports from a variety of news organizations had illuminated problems with how the meatpacking companies handled the pandemic, and with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement efforts. The subcommittee cited ProPublica’s reporting on how meat companies blindsided local public health departments, and on Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ efforts to intervene when local health officials tried to temporarily shutter a JBS plant amid an outbreak.

ProPublica has also documented how meat companies ignored years of warnings from the federal government about how a pandemic could tear through a food processing facility, and chronicled the role that meatpacking plants like a Tyson pork facility in Waterloo, Iowa, have played in spreading the virus to the surrounding community.

The subcommittee’s inquiry will also scrutinize the federal government’s shortcomings in protecting meatpacking workers. “Public reports indicate that under the Trump Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failed to adequately carry out its responsibility for enforcing worker safety laws at meatpacking plants across the country, resulting in preventable infections and deaths,” according to the subcommittee’s letter to OSHA.

The subcommittee also said that the agency had issued only a “few meager fines” and “failed to show urgency in addressing safety hazards at the meatpacking facilities it inspected.” The letter noted that OSHA had received complaints about JBS and Smithfield plants months before the agency conducted inspections.

David Seligman, a lawyer who helped meatpacking workers in Pennsylvania file a lawsuit against OSHA during the pandemic, said he hopes the subcommittee’s efforts are “just one of the initial steps” to holding companies accountable and ensuring workers are safe. “The harm inflicted on meat-processing workers during this pandemic, in service of the profits of corporate meat-packing companies and under a government that seemed happy to turn a blind eye, is a grave scandal,” Seligman wrote in an email.

In a statement, a Department of Labor spokesperson said that the subcommittee’s inquiry is “focused on the Trump administration’s actions surrounding the protection of workers from COVID-19 related risks,” and the agency is committed to protecting workers, and that new guidance on coronavirus enforcement that was issued in late January will serve as a “first step.”

In its Feb. 1 letters to OSHAJBSTyson and Smithfield, the subcommittee has requested documents related to government inspections at meatpacking plants and COVID-19 complaints lodged with the companies. OSHA was asked to brief the subcommittee by Feb. 15.

31 cows killed in crash after semi-truck hits elk in eastern Idaho

[The poor cows were probably about to be slaughtered anyway. And no mention of the elk, who surely died. But since the cows “belonged” to some human, they were the focus of the anthropocentric article.]


https://komonews.com/news/local/31-cows-killed-in-crash-after-semi-truck-hits-elk-in-eastern-idaho

by CBS2 News StaffFriday, February 5th 2021AA

Idaho State Police. (CBS2)

Idaho State Police. (CBS2)

Facebook Share Icon
Twitter Share Icon
Email Share Icon

GEORGETOWN, Idaho (CBS2) — More than two dozen cows were killed in an early morning crash in eastern Idaho.

Idaho State Police says a 29-year-old Parma man was driving east on Highway 30 Friday when his semi hauling 90 cattle hit an elk on the road and he ended up losing control. The semi rolled off the left shoulder.

ISP says 31 cows died at the scene. The driver was wearing a seatbelt.

Biden administration withdraws Trump-era plan for higher line speeds at chicken slaughterhouses

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

January 25, 2021 0 Comments

Biden administration withdraws Trump-era plan for higher line speeds at chicken slaughterhouses

Increased line speeds benefit no one but chicken producers looking to fatten their profits. Even at existing speeds, conditions inside a slaughterhouse are already immensely dangerous and inhumane. Photo by Kharkhan_Oleg/iStock.com

The Biden administration has withdrawn a deplorable pending rule that would have allowed qualifying chicken slaughter plants in the United States to permanently dial up line speeds from an already inhumane and lightning-fast 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, under the Trump administration, approved waivers for slaughterhouses to operate at faster speeds. Dozens of chicken slaughterhouses received such waivers, including 16 that received waivers in the spring of 2020. It was a terrible decision given that slaughterhouses had been declared coronavirus hotspots. To add insult to injury, the Trump administration soon after began working on a new rule that would allow qualifying chicken plants to operate at the higher speed, without even applying for a waiver. In essence, chicken producers looking to make more profit could simply ratchet up the line speed to kill more chickens with no consideration for animal welfare or worker safety.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund had been working with key leaders in the House and Senate to advance a shift on this issue, directing the USDA to review its policy in the recently enacted omnibus appropriations package and critical lobbying to urge candidate Biden to speak out about line speeds on the campaign trail. Withdrawing this rule was one of our top priorities for the Biden administration. Next, we will continue to focus on ending the waiver for the dozens of slaughterhouses that are already operating at the higher speeds. We and our allies are already suing the USDA to stop this waiver program and revoke the waivers, and we are urging the USDA, under new leadership, to promptly do so.

Increased line speeds benefit no one but chicken producers looking to fatten their profits. Even at existing speeds, conditions inside a slaughterhouse are already immensely dangerous and inhumane. Workers, struggling to keep up with rapidly moving slaughter lines, grab the chickens and slam them into shackles, injuring the animals’ fragile legs while they’re still conscious. Some birds miss the throat-cutting blade and enter the scalder—a tank of extremely hot water—alive and fully conscious. Human injury rates are also high as workers struggle to keep up with fast-moving lines. Imagine the additional risks to animal welfare and worker safety from increasing line speeds even more.

Faster speeds also further increase the risk of pandemic spread in slaughterhouses, where more than 48,000 workers have already been infected with the coronavirus and at least 245 have died. In fact, other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, had asked that line speeds be slowed down during the pandemic.

We are excited about today’s outcome—it is the right decision for worker safety, animal welfare, food safety and the mitigation of pandemic risk. But there is a great deal more we hope to accomplish in coming weeks and months. President Biden has a strong record on animal protection, and we will be working with his administration to withdraw harmful regulatory actions against animals taken under Trump, including the removal of slaughter speed limits at pig slaughterhouses. We will also work to undo a number of harmful rules finalized by the last administration, including reinstating protections for gray wolves, reversing harmful changes to the Endangered Species Act, and stopping harmful hunting practices on Alaska’s federal lands. It’s a new day, and we are excited to make this one of the best years ever for animal protection policy gains at the federal level.

Why we eat meat without guilt, but hate seeing animal slaughter

In her book ‘For A Moment of Taste’, former PETA CEO Poorva Joshipura writes about how categorising an animal as ‘food’ changes our view of it. Until we see it being killed.

POORVA JOSHIPURA 6 August, 2020 12:50 pm ISThttps://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=https://theprint.in/pageturner/excerpt/why-we-eat-meat-without-guilt-but-hate-seeing-animal-slaughter/476120/&layout=button_count&show_faces=false&width=105&action=like&colorscheme=light&height=21

Representational image | RawPixel
Representational image | RawPixel

Text Size: A- A+

When I ate meat, if someone were to have asked me if I loved animals, I would have said an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ After all, I adored playing with dogs and cats I would come across, enjoyed feeding squirrels and birds with my grandmother and liked watching wildlife documentaries with my father. 

However, eating animals requires someone ripping them from their families and butchering them—this is something everyone knows, even if they do not know the details of how it is done, and I knew that much too. Yet, I ate meat anyway. What allowed me to do so? What might allow others to do the same?


Also read: Will more people turn to vegetarianism in a post-coronavirus world?


The Brazilian Supermarket Prank 

Scientists have been studying this conflict, between caring for animals and killing them to eat them. This phenomenon has been labelled ‘the meat paradox’ by University of Kent and Université Libre de Bruxelles researchers Steve Loughnan, Boyka Bratanova, and Elisa Puvia. 

And we generally do care for animals. That’s why countries have laws protecting animals, why societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs) and other animal protection groups exist, why there was such national outrage when tigress Avni was killed, why the global horror when Cecil the lion and later his son Xanda were killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, and it is likely why you are reading this book. In fact, many of us find what has to happen to animals to produce meat wrong, at least in principle, what little we may know about it, even if we eat meat. 

A prank that was set up at a supermarket in Brazil, in which a man pretending to be a butcher offered samples of free fresh pork sausages to the store’s customers, proves this point. Shoppers would visit the counter, eat and admire the pork. Then, the butcher would offer to make more, but to do so he would bring out a live piglet and put the animal in a machine that appeared to instantly grind her up and turn her into fresh meat. In reality, another prankster was sitting in the machine safely collecting each baby pig. Although customers had just readily eaten pork, they were aghast when they thought a live pig was about to be killed. One woman spat out pork from her mouth, others pleaded with the butcher not to kill the young pig and even tried to physically stop him from doing so. None of them picked up another piece of the free fresh pork that they had eagerly eaten before seeing the live pig. If you were one of the customers, what would you have done?



Ranking Species on Worthiness of Moral Concern 

While many of us are perturbed by the thought of slaughter of any animal, several studies found people who choose to eat animals are inclined to reject the thought that animals are capable of complex emotions and are likely to draw a further line between the emotional capacities of animals usually used for food (such as chickens) versus those who are not typically eaten by humans (like parrots). Both are birds, but the findings of these scientists indicate that people who eat meat are prone to believe parrots can feel more deeply than chickens, even though there’s no scientific support for such a view. Refusing to acknowledge animals, especially animals used for food, have the ability to experience deep emotions, appears to let many of us dismiss what happens to them in the production of food. 

Through studies conducted by Loughnan and his colleague Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland, the pair describes how vegetarians tend to compare with meat eaters in thinking about the mental faculties of animals when told they will be killed. Vegetarians did not alter their view of that animal’s acumen when told an animal, such as a lamb, was set for slaughter. When meat eaters were told the same thing, it was found that they generally reduced their view of the animal’s mental abilities. This, the researchers surmise, may be a ‘defensive way’ to allow us to consume animals without much guilt or remorse.

Another experiment shows merely categorizing an animal as ‘food’ effects how most people perceive the animal’s rights. In this study, researchers introduced a tree kangaroo to participants—an animal the participating individuals were not familiar with. They were given general information about tree kangaroos and then some were told that the animals were for eating while others were not. Those individuals who were told the species was food considerably regarded tree kangaroos as less deserving of concern than the other participants. 

Labelling an animal ‘friend’ has an effect too, but an opposite one—doing so tends to increase our respect for the friend species. This labelling of animals as ‘friend’ versus ‘food’ and the psychological effect it has on how we then view them is surely what helped me, when I consider it in hindsight, to simultaneously love animals like dogs and cats and eat animals like cows, chickens and pigs.


Also read: A Dutch butcher is winning hearts by making plants taste just like meat


If this is the effect one study had on people’s minds, imagine the result of being told repeatedly, like we usually are from a young age, that certain animals are for ‘food’ by authority figures, like our parents, or members of our community or people we want to be accepted by, like our friends. What if these individuals would have instead categorized those same animals as ‘friend’? Would we have thought differently? 

Today there are many vegetarians and vegans in the United States, but in the ’80s and early ’90s, the repeated messaging to me as a youngster from most people was speciesist: Animals like cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and fish merely existed to be eaten and animals like dogs and cats are friends. In other words, particular species are worthier of respect than other animals just by way of being. Indeed, though I happily ate what I considered to be the ‘food’ members of the animal kingdom, I would have eaten my own foot before I ate a dog. If we are raised in a meat-eating family, or if our families engage in rituals or customs that involve killing or eating certain animals, something similar is usually the repeated messaging we hear too. 

This excerpt from A Moment of Taste by Poorva Joshipura has been published with permission from HarperCollins India.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

FrontlinePBS on slaughterhouse workers includes undercover animal video from COK, aired 7/21/2020

 I want to make sure DawnWatch subscribers know about the most recent episode of Frontline, on PBS, which looked at the plight of agricultural and slaughterhouse workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Upon learning that the episode included video of egregious animal abuse, in addition to the inherent animal abuse of slaughterhouses, I feared that animals would be what Carol Adams has termed the “absent referent” (a term well worth learning about) in the show, with their suffering being an unacknowledged backdrop. Instead, Frontline shared the undercover video at the top of the slaughterhouse segment, letting viewers know that the Central Valley Meat Co, which has shown shocking indifference to the plight of its workers, has a famously bad history with animals as well. PBS does not mention that the video being shared comes from a Compassion Over Killing undercover investigation from 2012, but some of you might enjoy the DawnWatch alert from that time about the superb coverage the investigation achieved: https://dawnwatch.com/alert/20120822190107/ The Frontline episode can be watched on line at:https://www.pbs.org/video/covids-hidden-toll-lof6d5/ The animal cruelty segment is at the 22 minute mark, but I personally would highly recommend watching the full show. It is eye opening and thought provoking. It was not easy to find a link for feedback to the Frontline producers, while very easy to find information for sharing the episode online, which tells us that sharing is the positive feedback the producers prefer. They offer their social media address as @FrontlinePBS and hashtag as #FrontlinePBS . And so I highly recommend you check out and share the segment.   I have it on the DawnWatch Facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/DawnWatchInc/posts/662804937776490

The Birth of a Bill, the Death of an Activist

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/07/18/birth-bill-death-activist

Saturday, July 18, 2020byToronto Star

Regan’s viewpoint, known as intersectionality, is the theory that all forms of oppression, discrimination, domination etc., intersect and influence each other.byFiona Roossien

 3 Comments

Regan Russell, the Toronto Pig Save activist who was killed by a truck carrying pigs to slaughter. (Photo: Agnes Cseke)

Regan Russell, the Toronto Pig Save activist who was killed by a truck carrying pigs to slaughter. (Photo: Agnes Cseke)

On June 19, a protester was killed. Perhaps her death was obscured by the din of headlines that Friday—it was Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery.

Protests against systemic racism catalyzed by the death of George Floyd juxtaposed with a Trump rally scheduled on the anniversary and in the location of the worst incident of racial violence in the U.S. Tensions were high.

Her name was Regan Russell and while participating in a scheduled vigil outside of Fearmans slaughterhouse in Burlington, she was run down by a transport truck carrying pigs on their way to slaughter.

In the news covering this event, and in conversations I’ve had with friends and family, it seems the significance of a protester being run down by the very thing she was protesting has been missed. It seems many wonder what she was doing there.

A local news story gives the following account from someone who witnessed the event from a distance: “Then I saw a woman … I assumed the truck driver thought he was clear to go and didn’t see that last protester.”

Ironically, being seen is an important goal of the vigils held by animal rights groups at slaughterhouses—one way to create more visibility in an industry that would prefer to keep its practices hidden. And Regan was unignorable.

But she was also there that day to protest Bill 156—a new ag-gag law that had been passed two days earlier. Criticized as unconstitutional, Bill 156 is handcrafted to stifle damning evidence of the cruelty that is endemic to animal agriculture, with provisions that are distinctly anti-whistle-blower and anti-free-speech.

Like its counterpart, Bill 27 in Alberta, Bill 156 represents the influence of a powerful farming lobby desperately trying to limit exposure of something that can harm their bottom line — visibility into how the animal agriculture industry works. These sections don’t serve to protect the animals or reinforce biosecurity; they serve the sole purpose of controlling information.

The day before she died, Regan wrote on social media: “Bill 156 has passed. Now anytime an animal is suffering on a farm in Ontario, no one, not even an employee, has the right to expose it. This decision is evil. Animal ag is evil. Cancel animal agriculture.”

I’m so sorry that you didn’t get a chance to meet Regan Russell yourself. You would have loved her. I only hope that, in clearing up some of the questions about vigils, I can do her justice.

Regan didn’t look like what I suppose you’d expect a vegan to look like. At 65, Regan still possessed the qualities that decades earlier had made her a model — that is to say, her outer beauty was undeniable. But on the inside — well, that was truly special. She was funny and fast-witted, kind and patient.

She vibrated on a high frequency, if you are familiar with the concept. She was cynical, in a wise way, yet optimistic enough to try to make a difference. For 40 years, she had tried to make a difference. A week prior to her death, she had marched at a Black Lives Matter rally.

You see, Regan’s viewpoint, known as intersectionality, is the theory that all forms of oppression, discrimination, domination etc., intersect and influence each other. One of the signs she frequently brought to vigils read: “If you were in this truck, we’d be here for you too.” And you know what? She would have.

Personally speaking, up until two years ago, I wouldn’t have considered being an activist myself, despite being vegan for several years. It was my then 10-year old son — frustrated because he had been forbidden to talk about animal agriculture at school, who begged me and his dad, also vegan, to take him to a vigil. It became our church. Every Sunday morning we went to bear witness at Fearmans — sometimes with just a handful of people, sometimes in a group of 20 or more. Regan was almost always there too.

This leads me to an important point about Regan’s experience — as an activist, and specifically attending vigils at Fearmans, which she had done for years. This translates to hundreds of vigils, stopping thousands of transport trucks, bearing witness to the final moments of hundreds of thousands of pigs.

Regan understood the risks — after all, rogue aggressive drivers had been encountered in the past. In fact, this issue was the impetus for a petition created by Toronto Pig Save on change.org urging Michael Latifi, the CEO of Fearmans/Sofina Foods Inc., to create​ ​a safety agreement allowing activists to safely protest. Although the request has been ignored to date, other efforts had been made by both Toronto Pig Save and another activist group, New Wave Activism, to liaise with police, work with security and establish rapport with drivers.

Safety protocol is reviewed regularly with the group. Every vigil is timed. Roles are assigned to protestors to improve safety. Regan had one of those roles that day — standing at the entrance, just on the other side of the pedestrian sidewalk, with her now iconic bright neon sign that read ALL ANIMALS NEED PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

Although, thanks to the newly passed Bill 156, the ability to legally protect animals would soon be more difficult. It is a bill that exemplifies prioritization of commerce over our rights as Canadians and specifically seeks to punish animal activists. This reality was certainly top-of-mind for Regan and the other activists there that day — as much as it was likely on the radar of those who profit from animal agriculture.

As you can imagine, losing Regan has been a devastating loss to the activism community, to Toronto Pig Save and New Wave Activism and to the many individuals who Regan touched with her beauty, wisdom and compassion. Personally, there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t cried a tear or two hundred — for the loss of a friend, and the loss of innocence, as I see for the first time just how unforgiving the machine we stand against can be.

And in the wake of Regan’s death, we are emboldened to articulate our demands in her name:

Justice for Regan Russell; the creation of a universal safety protocol for all future vigils; the repeal of Bill 156; greater visibility into farms where animals are kept and slaughterhouses via 24/7 video; monitoring that can be accessed by the public; the conversion of Fearmans Pork into an exclusively plant-based facility focused on the manufacture of plant protein; and the defunding of animal agriculture.

On the captivity, Regan said: “They say we’re breaking the law by storming? How do you think women got the right (to vote)? How do you think slavery was abolished? People stood up and broke the laws! Because they’re stupid laws.”

Let’s stand up to this stupid law.

Fiona Roossien wrote this article on behalf of Toronto Pig Save.

Revealed: Covid-19 outbreaks at meat-processing plants in US being kept quiet

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/01/revealed-covid-19-outbreaks-meat-processing-plants-north-carolina

Testing has found positive cases at North Carolina facilities, but officials refuse to release the information

Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Marshville, N.C.

Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Marshville, North Carolina. Photograph: Francisco Kjolseth/APAnimals farmed is supported byAbout this contentLewis Kendall in Durham, North CarolinaPublished onWed 1 Jul 2020 05.00 EDT

2,915

Achicken processing facility in western North Carolina reportedly underwent widespread testing for Covid-19 in early June.

Workers at the plant were scared. Several employees had already tested positive and the company, Case Farms – which has been repeatedly condemned for animal treatment and workers’ rights violations – was not providing proper protective equipment.

“We don’t have a lot of space at work. We are shoulder to shoulder,” said one worker, who declined to be identified, during a recent union call. “I’m afraid to go to work, but I have to go.”

The testing turned up 150 positive cases at the facility, the worker said.

On 8 June, the health department for Burke county, where the Case Farms facility is located, reported 136 new Covid cases, a 25% increase in its total caseload. Yet neither the company, county officials nor the North Carolina department of health and human services would confirm whether those cases were connected to Case Farms.

It is just one example of the currently taut relationship between public health and the economy in North Carolina, as the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations rises.

North Carolina is one of the largest pork and poultry producing states in the US, exporting roughly $1.25bn in hogs, chickens and turkeys every year. Health departments in rural parts of the state, areas that often lean on large meatpacking or food processing facilities as primary sources of employment, have so far been tight-lipped about Covid-19 outbreaks in those plants.

In late April, while outbreaks began emerging at meat processing plants across the country, Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing the facilities to remain open. That same month, the US exported a record amount of pork to China, despite industry claims of a domestic shortage.

Workers wear protective masks and stand between a plastic dividers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Georgia.

Workers wear protective masks and stand between a plastic dividers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Georgia. Photograph: AP

Since the pandemic began, more than 36,000 meat processing and farm workers have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 116 have died, according to a tally by the Food and Environment Reporting Network, though the true number is likely higher.

Through case interviews and contact tracing, the Burke county health department, where Case Farms is located, does have data about where people with positive cases work, but are choosing not to release it, said spokeswoman Lisa Moore.

“We know where they are, but we are not a county that can divulge every place where they are,” Moore said.

Case Farms requested the health department direct all questions regarding their facility to a company representative, Moore added.

In response to a series of detailed questions from the Guardian, a Case Farms spokesperson wrote that the company is “committed to continue producing food for our nation’s food supply, while taking additional safety measures to protect our employees, our company and our customers, in accordance with USDA regulations and CDC guidelines.”

Earlier this year, North Carolina’s health department had reported the names of farms with two or more positive cases, but in May replaced the names with addresses in order to “better reflect the location of the outbreak”, according to a department spokesperson.

“Why, when a nursing home has an outbreak, it’s in the paper, but when a meatpacking facility does, it’s not?” said Mac Legerton, a longtime grassroots policy advocate and co-director of the Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development, and is among those who have criticized local and state governments’ approach to case reporting.

“The law needs to be that in a pandemic all outbreaks at public and private facilities are made public to protect the employees of the institutions and to inform the public.”

As of Thursday, there were 2,772 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in 28 meat processing plant “clusters” around the state, the department said, but would not specify further.

North Carolina as a whole has seen a marked increase in cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks, prompting a “concerned” Governor Roy Cooper to announce last week that the state would pause in the second phase of its reopening plan.

Demonstrators protest working conditions at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing facility in Minnesota.

Demonstrators protest working conditions at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing facility in Minnesota. Photograph: Jeff Wheeler/APAdvertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The state requires only a few types of businesses to report outbreaks, which it defines as two or more cases, including congregate living facilities, daycare centers and schools. For all other businesses, local health departments and the state DHHS depend on companies volunteering their own data or tracking down clusters through case interviews.

But failure to disclose outbreaks demonstrates that officials and company executives are prioritizing economic interests over the wellbeing of marginalized workers and communities, Legerton said.

“That lack of information puts both employees and the public at risk,” he said.

In a letter to several of the largest meat companies last week, senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker called on the corporations to disclose infection figures in their plants.

Virginia also recently moved to create a set of safety rules to protect workers from Covid-19 – the first of its kind in the nation – following a petition from workers in the state’s poultry processing and meatpacking industries. The drafted rules, which include requiring employers to mandate social distancing and notify employees of potential exposure, would be enforceable through fines and closures.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has received nearly 350 Covid-related complaints from employees at North Carolina businesses. One business, Pilgrim’s Pride, a poultry processing plant in Sanford, was the subject of at least eight separate complaints, with workers alleging the company was not informing them of positive tests or mandating the wearing of some protective equipment. A worker there died in May.

In Robeson county – home to a large Campbell’s Soup facility, Mountaire Farms and Sanderson Farms poultry processing plants, as well as many factory farms – businesses have been generally forthcoming with the health department, according to Bill Smith, the county’s health department director.

Smith’s office received $600,000 in federal Covid funding, which it used to set up testing sites around the county and hire school nurses as contact tracers. Smith and his team have also been collaborating on daily calls with health departments from surrounding counties, as well as coordinating closely with the local Lumbee Tribe.

But companies can make this work difficult, muddying the waters for case reporting in communities where they are one of very few employers, Smith said.

“A lot of the packing places are your largest employers, therefore it’s an economic issue,” he said. “There may be pressures from them to stay out of the packing world, if you will.”

Companies also choose to weigh public health considerations alongside public relations in determining what information to release, Smith said, pointing to publicly traded giants like Sanderson Farms and Smithfield Foods, which have “a brand they’re trying to protect”.

“If you say something about Smithfield Foods, they’ll see an effect immediately: you’ll see someone not buy Smithfield in the grocery,” he said.

Still, the decision by state and county health departments to report some outbreaks and not others appears inconsistent with the need for transparency in a public health crisis, Smith noted.

“When you’re releasing nursing home names with two illnesses, yet another place that has 900 you refuse to give, there’s some disagreement there from a public health perspective,” he said.

Joaquin Phoenix Attends Vigil for Animal Rights Activist After She Died Outside a Slaughterhouse

Joaquin Phoenix honored Regan Russell, an animal rights activist who was killed outside of a slaughterhouse in Toronto, CanadaBy Alexia Fernandez June 26, 2020 10:02 PMhttps://7df0782deefdfbba75c64735113f71eb.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlhttps://7df0782deefdfbba75c64735113f71eb.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlADVERTISEMENTFBTweetMore

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix and Michelle Cho; (inset) Regan Russell BOBBY SUD

Joaquin Phoenix paid tribute to an animal rights activist after she died giving pigs water outside of a Canadian slaughterhouse.

The Oscar-winning actor, 45, joined more than 100 animal rights activists for a vigil to commemorate Regan Russell outside of the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, California, on Thursday night.

Phoenix, who has been an outspoken proponent for animal rights and veganism, stood outside of the slaughterhouse in a black hoodie reading “LA Animal Save,” a mask, and a sign that read, “#SavePigs4Regan.”

Standing beside him was his friend, Michelle Cho, with a sign that read, “Rest in power Regan.”

RELATED: Joaquin Phoenix Comforted Pigs at L.A. Slaughterhouse After SAG Award Win: ‘I Have to Be Here’

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Phoenix said, “Regan Russell spent the final moments of her life providing comfort to pigs who had never experienced the touch of a kind hand.”

“While her tragic death has brought upon deep sorrow in the Animal Save community, we will honor her memory by vigorously confronting the cruelties she fought so hard to prevent by marching with Black Lives, protecting Indigenous rights, fighting for LGBTQ equality, and living a compassionate vegan life,” he said.

Joaquin Phoenix

Regan Russell died on June 19 GOFUNDME

“The Ontario government can attempt to silence us with the passage of its Ag-Gag bill -Bill 156 – but we will never go away and we will never back down,” he said. “My heart goes out to the Toronto Animal Save community and to Regan’s lifelong partner, Mark Powell.”

Part of Russell’s fight was to repeal a new bill passed in Ontario, Bill 156, that will soon make it illegal for anyone to be on private property such as farms where animals intended for slaughter are usually held.

Russell died on the morning of June 19 outside of the Fearman’s Pork Inc. when she was hit by a transport truck as she was attempting to give water to pigs headed to slaughter.

A spokesperson for the Halton Regional Police Service did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, although an investigation into her death is being conducted, a spokesperson told CBC.

Russell’s partner, Powell, told The Hamilton Spectator shortly after her death he didn’t know how she ended up underneath the transport truck, but that he was willing to continue her legacy of fighting for animal welfare.

RELATED: Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix March with Dead Animals After Sparking Engagement Rumors

“She died fighting for what she believed in,” Powell said. “Whatever it cost, she would pay. Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes, it’s this.”

On Friday, Powell told the CBC he’d fight Bill 156 for “the rest of my life.”

“My life ended on Friday [June 19], so for as long as I’m left here, we have to pick up the torch and we have to fight things like Bill 156,” he said.

GoFundMe for Russell has been created by her family to provide funds for her funeral and legal expenses.